Tuesday, February 20, 2024
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The 30 Uncommon Japanese Surnames, Rare and Unusual

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In this article I want to show you the uncommon Japanese surnames, rare to see in Japan as sometimes they are carried by less than 1000 people, so they are uncommon Japanese surnames.

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Uncommon Japanese surnames VS common Japanese surnames

Japan is one of the countries with the largest number of surnames, there are about 100,000 registered Japanese surnames, and some of them are extremely common, such as: Watanabe, Ito, Takahashi, Tanaka, Sato or Saito, Kobayashi, Suzuki…

Surely you know someone who carries these surnames, either in person or a celebrity, and that’s because they are very common in Japan.

Therefore, in this post we will divide them into:

  • Rare Japanese surnames (between 1,000 and 150 people carry it)
  • Uncommon Japanese surnames (less than 150 people have it)

30. IKARI / 五十里 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Ikari ( 五十里), we put it in the list of rare Japanese surnames due to the fact that there are 1300 people who have it.

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Meaning of Ikari (五十里).

The meaning of Ikari ( 五十里) is: 50 villages or miles

You should know that if Ikari is written with different Kanji, it can mean something very different like “Anchor” or even “Wrath”. So it is important that you pay attention to how this uncommon Japanese surname is spelled.

29. SHIO / 塩 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Shio (塩), we also put it on our list of rare Japanese surnames due to the fact that there are only 1000 people who bear it.

The meaning of Shio (塩) is: Salt

Originally people who have the Japanese surname Shio, did not mean Salt, but nowadays it lost its old meaning, and the Japanese say Sal, because it is pronounced and written with the same Kanji as the Japanese word salt or sodium chloride.

28. SHIKICHI / 敷地 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Shikichi (敷地), we put it in this small list of rare Japanese surnames due to the fact that there are only 920 people who bear it.

Shikichi (敷地) meaning: Premise or place.

27. TSUKUMO / 九十九 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Tsukumo (九十九), we put it on the list of rare Japanese surnames as there are only 850 people who carry it.

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Tsukumo (九十九) meaning: 99

It is not known exactly why 99 in a surname, so it is one of the rare and unexplained Japanese surnames according to Japanese bases.

26. ICHIBANGASE / 一番ケ瀬 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Ichibangase (一番ケ瀬 ), we put it in this list of rare Japanese surnames as there are only 700 people who carry this surname.

The meaning of Ichibangase (一番ケ瀬 ): 1st tea school or first waterfall or first lowland.

Normally this Japanese surname is somewhat rare, as the people who bore it came from the first tea schools in their village or when they were settled in a place and a waterfall was discovered.

25. MYOGA / 茗荷 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Myoga (茗荷), we also put it on the list of rare Japanese surnames as there are only 440 people who have this surname.

Myoga (茗荷) meaning: Japanese ginger.

As it is known in ancient times the Japanese put their surnames based on where they lived or the work they did, in this case it is based on agriculture, they were involved in the harvesting of Japanese ginger and therefore they were given this Japanese surname.

24. KAI / 買 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Kai (買), is also on this list of rare Japanese surnames as there are only 330 people who have this surname.

Kai (買) meaning: To buy

In this case they were in charge of shopping for the people, they would go out to the outskirts for days on end to get groceries for their Japanese people to subsist on.

Kau for shopping should not be confused with Kai for seafood. The kanji can be read as Kau, but the surname is pronounced Kai.

23. JINJA / 神社 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Jinja (神社), is one of those rare Japanese surnames as there are only 330 people who have this surname.

The meaning of Jinja (神社): Shinto shrine.

They were in charge of the sanctuary, its cleanliness and protection.

22. AKASOFU / 赤祖父 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Akasofu (赤祖父), is not only one of those rare Japanese surnames as there are only 270 people who have this surname, but it is also one of the rare Japanese surnames that exist, due to its meaning.

The meaning of Akasofu (赤祖父): Red grandfather.

We say that it is one of the rare and unusual Japanese surnames, because in Japan they were not used to make references to people by education and much less assign a color in Japanese so specific.

21. KON / 根 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Kon (根), is one of those rare Japanese surnames as there are only 240 people who carry such a surname.

Meaning of Kon (根): Root.

Kon can refer to the root of something, such as the root of the hair, the root of the teeth…among many other types of roots.

20. HIRAWA / 平和 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Hirawa (平和), is also one of those rare Japanese surnames as there are only 230 people who carry the surname.

Hirawa (平和) meaning: Peace or Plain of harmony.

19. BOTAN / 牡丹 (Rare Japanese surnames)

rare japanese surnames

The surname Botan (牡丹), is not only one of those rare Japanese surnames as there are only 170 people who have such a surname, but it is also said to be one of the rare Japanese surnames in Japan, due to the meaning they carry.

Botan (牡丹) meaning: Peony.

It is said to be one of the rare Japanese surnames because it refers to a flower, normally references to trees are common in Japanese surnames, such as Mori 森 (forest, usually large) or Moriyama 森山 (The mountain forest), Sugimoto 杉本 (the origin of cedar), Hayashi 林 (forest usually small) or Matsuda 松田 (pine field).

But as we said in a surname it is not common to see the name of the flowers, and much less when its writing or kanji match exactly with the name and pronunciation of the flower, that is why it is said to be one of the rare Japanese surnames but it is also said to be special.

18. TAUE / 田植 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

We begin the list of uncommon Japanese surnames with Taue (田植), as only about 130 people carry the surname.

The meaning of Taue (田植) is: Rice sowing or rice planting.

They were in charge of planting rice, they were also in charge of the rice field during the year, they protected and pampered it, that is why their surname was Taue.

17. KEANA / 毛穴 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Keana (穴) is one of those uncommon Japanese surnames as there are only 130 people who bear it.

Keana (毛穴) meaning is: Pores (of the skin).

It is not known exactly why Keana was given to Japanese people in the past, the reason is unknown and that is why it is also considered one of the rare Japanese surnames.

16. MIZOROGE / 御菩薩池 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Mizoroge (御菩薩池) is also one of those uncommon Japanese surnames as there are only 120 people who bear it.

The meaning of Mizoroge (御菩薩池) is: Bodhisattva pond

These families were in charge of the Bodhisattva pond, when it existed either near the temple or in the outskirts. They were in charge of the care and cleanliness to keep it always kind and shining as they worshiped it.

15. SENJU O SENJOU/ 先生 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Senju (先生) is also one of those uncommon Japanese surnames as there are only 120 people who bear it.

Senju (先生) meaning is: Professor

This surname was usually carried by the sages of Japanese villages who taught as teachers to children or elderly people in need.

The Kanji 先生 is Sensei, but as a surname it reads Senjou or Senju.

14. SUISHA / 水車 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Suisha (水車) is one of those uncommon Japanese surnames as there are only 110 people bearing this surname.

The meaning of Suisha (水車) is: Water wheel or water mill.

It is said that Suisha was carried by those who were in charge of providing water by means of the mechanisms (wheels or mills).

13. KYOTO O KIYOUTO/ 京都 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Kyoto (京都) is one of the uncommon Japanese surnames as there are only 90 people bearing this surname.

The meaning of Kyoto (京都) is: Former capital of Japan.

The Kyoto Kanji (京都), can be read as Kyouto, Kiyouto or Kyoto. Even this same kanji can be read as Miyako in surname, so if you see this surname on someone you better ask them Kyoto or Miyako? And then you will know the exact answer.

12. MOMO / 百百 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Momo (百百) is also one of the uncommon Japanese surnames as there are only 90 people bearing this surname.

The meaning of Momo (百百) is: From One Hundred to One Hundred

You can think of Momo as peach, (i.e. as Japanese fruit), but in that case the kanji 桃 would be used instead of 百.

11. WAMURO / 和室 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Wamuro (和室) is one of the uncommon Japanese surnames as there are only 80 people bearing this surname.

The meaning of Wamuro (和室) is: Japanese style room or Harmonious room.

It is not known exactly why Japanese families were called Wamuro, but it is believed that it was because they were in charge of keeping the rooms clean, with a harmonious and clean style, in a typical Japanese room, probably feudal.

10. TOKEI / 時計 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Tokei (時計) is the top 10 uncommon Japanese surname as there are only 60 people bearing this surname.

The meaning of Tokei (時計) is: Clock

It is said that these families controlled the time, and helped people “from families with power”, to arrive on time to their places, that is, they had a function similar to a secretary with appointments.

9. NOSAKU / 農作 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Nosaku (農作) is in the top 10 at number 9 of the uncommon Japanese surnames because there are only 50 people currently carrying this surname.

The meaning of Nosaku (農作) is: Agriculture or agricultural product.

Normally these people used to carry this surname when they were farmers or worked with agricultural products and sold or exchanged them.

8. KAJIYASHIKI / 鍛冶屋敷 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Kajiyashiki (鍛冶屋敷) is in the top 10 but this time in the number 8 spot of uncommon Japanese surnames because that there are only 40 people bearing this surname today.

The meaning of Kajiyashiki (鍛冶屋敷) is: Blacksmith’s mansion or blacksmith’s house.

In the past, this surname was carried by people who were blacksmiths, or who helped the blacksmith and helped forge in his mansion or house the Japanese katanas so prized today.

7. GOGATSU / 五月 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Gogatsu (五月) is in the top 10 but ranked number 7 of uncommon Japanese surnames because there are only 30 people bearing this surname today.

The meaning of Gogatsu (五月) is: May (the month)

When a family had absolutely nothing and no occupation, or if the baby was abandoned in the month of May, its caregivers gave it the surname Gogatsu, referring to the baby found in that month.

6. HIME / 姫 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Hime (姫) is in the top 10 in the number 6 position of uncommon Japanese surnames because that there are only 30 people who carry this surname today, but you should know that this surname is very rare and sometimes evokes some problem with the opposite sex to female.

The meaning of Hime (姫) is: Princess

When a family was as rich as kings and princesses, but only had female daughters, the surname Hime came to adapt from that time, but nowadays as boys have been born in such families the surname Hime evokes many problems in boys.

5. HIGASA / 日傘 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

Higasa (日傘) ranked #5 in the top 10 of uncommon Japanese surnames, Higasa is carried by only 30 people today.

Higasa (日傘) meaning is: Umbrella

It is not known exactly or for certain why Higasa was given to the old Japanese families, and there are many rumors circulating about this surname.

4. IEKAMI / 家神 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Iekami (家神) in the number 4 position in this top 10 of the uncommon Japanese surnames, because this surname is carried by only 20 people today.

The meaning of Iekami (家神) is: House of God.

It is said of those who lived by and for the God of that sanctuary or temple.

3. DANGO / 団子 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Dango (団子) is ranked number 4 in this top 10 of uncommon Japanese surnames, as this surname is carried by only 10 people today.

The meaning of Dango (団子) is: Dumpling (dango dessert).

The people who used to wear them in the past were the artisans of this famous Japanese dessert.

2. HINODE / 日ノ出 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

With the surname Hinode (日ノ出) we reach number 2 in this top 10 of the uncommon Japanese surnames, as this surname is carried by only 10 people today.

Hinode (日ノ出) meaning is: Sunrise

Rumor has it that Hinode was given to those in charge of waking up their people at dawn to begin work.

1. MIKAN / 蜜柑 (Uncommon Japanese surnames)

uncommon japanese surnames

The surname Mikan (蜜柑) is number 1 in this top 10 of uncommon Japanese surnames, as this surname is carried by only 10 people today.

The meaning of Mikan (蜜柑) is: Satsuma mandarin (Japanese citrus fruit, Citrus unshiu).

It is said of those families in charge of the cultivation of Mikan, a Japanese citrus fruit that tastes like a tangerine of the Satsuma variety, with the scientific name Citrus Unshiu.

If you know someone or even a famous person who has one of the uncommon Japanese surnames, or the uncommon Japanese surnames, tell us about it in the comments!

Just as if you want to know more about any of these surnames, leave a comment and we will gather as much information as we can for you and to satisfy your curiosity about these surnames.

Source: みょうじ (for list of surnames) and various Japanese sources and old books for the origin of each.

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We are lovers and specialists in Japan, one of us with a master's degree in Japanese culture, studying in Japan and Spain, also with Japanese language course with JLPT N3 (Noken 3) ofical qualification and superior qualification of tourist guide. We are a family of 5 members, and our 3 daughters are named Yuna, Yui and Yuki in honor of Japan, we love to travel (I have even traveled to Japan pregnant and with a baby on occasion) so we can bring you not only to Japan more otaku and cultural, but the face that not everyone teaches, traveling with children to Japan and places to visit with them.We love Japan, its culture, its people, its language, its cities, its small towns, its nature, its food, its anime and manga, its souvenirs... EVERYTHING ABOUT JAPAN!We invite you to see the traditional Japan and the secret Japan on our website and our Youtube.We are All About Japan: Your best travel guide to Japan
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